Facebook. The mega social media juggernaut which keeps on growing. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the power and influence Facebook has on our modern lives. For writers and authors, it has become a necessary part of building our platform and a community around our writing. It can however, be a roller-coaster of success. Depending on the algorithm of the moment, you can be hitting the mark with your reach and visibility, or drowning dismally in the sea of Facebook noise. And now with Facebook’s most recently announced changes, reaching your audience could be set to get a whole lot more tricky.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, caused a wave of hysteria recently (Jan 2018), when he announced the latest planned changes to its algorithms.
Zuck claims he is making these changes for the greater good. To take Facebook back to its roots of connection and building relationships. He wants the time we spend on Facebook to be more meaningful. Rather than the mindless scrolling and thumbing that we all do, he wants us to be building connections and creating a sense of community that brings us positive experiences and feelings.
Sounds good, right?
I absolutely agree it’s a great vision, but the impending changes will affect the reach of pages, particularly news and publication outlets (which is the whole idea), but also to a lesser but still impactful extent, small business pages such as writers and authors.
So I’m going to dust off my social media consultancy hat (it’s been a while!), and break down just what these changes will mean, relevant to writers and authors.
- To build community
- To create meaningful relationships between people
- To bring people together
- To create wellbeing and promote interaction that has a positive influence on our mental health
- Less of a focus on news and generic content, and more on personal relationships between family and friends.
- Pages that are not actively building a community and promoting discussion and interaction on their page will have less visibility
- Pages where discussion is engaging, not only between page owner and liker, but between likers of the page, will be treated as relevant and meaningful content. These pages will gain more visibility.
Those last two changes are the most significant to writers and authors. It also comes down to how much effort you have already put into building a community around your Facebook page, and, where you go to from here. Simply having a lot of likes on your posts, isn’t enough anymore.
So, the big question is…
What can authors do to make these changes work for them?
As much as we’d like to brush off these changes as ‘seen it all before’, this time, we can’t. This time, the changes will have a direct impact on the reach of your page. Possibly even a dramatic impact.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are things you can do to make sure you are using your Facebook page to foster a community, and in turn, increase your page and post visibility.
However, before I go into what you can do, I think it’s really important at this stage to consider the following question; are you willing to put in the time and effort it will require?
At the end of the day, you are a writer and your time is best spent writing. After all, you can’t market and promote a book that never gets written! So, you need to weigh it up. If you feel you are getting more traction with say Instagram or Twitter, perhaps your time is better spend building your community there. However, if you feel Facebook is where you want to be, now is the time to make the decision to commit to it.
So, you’ve decided Facebook is it? Well, here is a list of things you can do right now to use the algorithm changes to your advantage. You might already being doing these, and if so, fantastic! You’re already ahead of many others. If not, here we go…
Explain it to your community
The first step is to let your followers know what’s going on. Explain things are changing and the best way for them to continue seeing your posts, is to get liking and commenting. Encourage them join in on the discussion, rather than just clicking like. Encourage them to comment on the post, comment on others’ comments, and join in the fun! Ask them if there are things they’d like to see more of from you, what they love, what they want to know. The more relevant content you post – content they want to see – the more likely you are to get great interaction.
Also ask them to make sure they have selected to ‘see first’. All they need to do is click on the ‘Following Tab’ near the “Like Page'” button on your page, and then select ‘See first’. This makes sure your page’s posts are more likely to appear in their news feed.
Some people are a natural on camera, but for those of us who aren’t (yes, me included!) the idea can be daunting to say the least! But, live video is going to be well rewarded. Why? Because it encourages interaction and creates discussion, which in turn fosters a sense of community. And it keeps people on Facebook – and that’s what Facebook wants. In fact, links to outside videos such as on YouTube will be demoted in feeds.
The important thing to remember with live video, is to try and keep the times you post consistent. That way people will learn when you are going live and can be there to interact with you. ‘Regular and episodic’ are they key words that Facebook have used when describing what video content they will give preference too. And also, video with more interaction and discussion will have more visibility. It will take a little while to build up your audience, but as long as your content is relevant to what your community wants to know and learn, it will work. It’s a ‘build it and they will come’ thing.
Figure out what your niche is. Where your passion lies. And most importantly what your audience wants to hear.
If you’re a published author, it’s likely you have a healthy mix of readers and aspiring authors. They will want to know how the writing of your current novel is going, where you’re at, new books coming out, your writing process, your path to publication, writing advice and tips, books you’re reading, and so forth. And they will want to get to know you as a person. What do you like outside of writing? What hobbies do you have? etc. Where you draw the line on how much information you share is up to you, but you have to give your followers something that helps them see you as a real person. Whether you share your love of baking, or the landscape where you live, or your love for travel – it just needs to be something that you can share about yourself. For aspiring, pre-published authors, and freelance writers, your objectives will be similar.
- Find out what your audience wants.
- Use a process of trial and error, to see what gets more reaction.
- Post useful links that are helpful and that spark discussion. Don’t simply just post a link of a great article your read, ask a question with it. Add some colour and personal touches with it to begin a conversation, and put the time and effort into joining in and encouraging your followers to do the same.
- Share ‘evergreen content’, that is, stories that are always intriguing and interesting, and that will spark interest and discussion.
- Share your interests and tap into that unique niche that you have – we all have one!
This isn’t something new. Consistency has always been an important factor in page reach and visibility. Keep your posts consistent and your live videos at a regular time. Posting once a week isn’t going to cut it. Experts recommend at least once a day. And yes, I do need to practice what I preach and improve in this area myself!
Encourage meaningful interaction
When you pull all of the above together, the final and probably most important thing you need to do, is encourage meaningful interaction on your page. Not only by replying and engaging with your audience, but encouraging them to also engage with each other.
You want to spark great discussion where people offer their knowledge and opinion (in a positive manner), and where your audience feels safe, valued, and as feels as though they have learned and contributed in some way. You want comments – long, meaningful comments. Comments now trump likes in this new algorithm.
No longer do we want people mindlessly liking posts and continuing to scroll their news feed. We want to stimulate conversation and promote discussion and engagement, where everyone feels valued. It might sound a little airy-fairy, but it’s how you build community, it’s as simple as that.
To sum up…
The key word here is community. If you’re solely using social media (any platform) to sell, you’re already on the wrong tram. Building a community who engages with you is the goal. Once you build rapport and trust, they are most likely to want to see what you have to offer, but never make that your prime objective..
So there you have it. It’s not the end of the world, but it will mean changing the way you interact on Facebook. And not only with your own author page. Make sure you are sharing the love and practicing what you preach. Do more than just liking posts. Interact. Engage. Join in on the discussion. The benefits go far and beyond just pleasing Facebook’s algorithm.
I’ll be following this blog post up with a live video. My first one had a little bit of an audio glitch, so I’m hoping I’ve overcome that issue! In the next couple of days I’ll be popping onto Facebook live to discuss this post and to share a little more with you, so stay tuned for that!
Who’s doing it well?
There are some authors who have built wonderful communities on Facebook. Here’s a small handful of those doing it really well, check them out to see what works for them. And don’t be put off by the fact that they are published authors, yes, it might make things a little easier, but the bottom line is the same – creating community.
And the queen of writers/authors on Facebook Elizabeth Gilbert
If you’re wanting to know more of the intricacies behind this Facebook change, the following couple of links are great resources to check out: